The holidays conjure up festive images of roaring fires, egg nog, goofy sweaters, and indulgent meals. But for many Americans, it can be a time filled with heightened anxiety over social situations, money woes, eating too much, and traffic jams.

The latest Consumer Reports Holiday Poll reveals that while nine in 10 of us delight in the season, we're dreading some of the traditions, folderol, and stressors that come with it. (Check out the first two installments of our Holiday Poll for 2015 to find out whether Americans plan to increase holiday spending and whether Black Friday has regained its mojo.)

In a nationally representative survey*, we asked adults to rank their holiday dreads from a list of 13 potential pain points. Topping the list were crowds and long lines (cited by 64 percent of respondents), aggressive or throughtless driving in shopping centers (55 percent), and bad traffic (54 percent). Next came weight gain (35 percent), fake holiday cheer (34 percent), and debt (32 percent). Rounding out the list:

  • Gift shopping, a dread for 26 percent of those surveyed.
  • Seasonal movies played over and over on TV, 26 percent.
  • Seasonal music, 22 percent.
  • Seeing certain relatives, 20 percent.
  • Getting gifts from unexpected givers,  20 percent.
  • Traveling, 19 percent.
  • Having to attend gatherings, parties, or events, 19 percent.
  • Disappointing presents, 15 percent.

And about that fruitcake. In a separate survey we conducted this summer on the least-favorite holiday food gifts, fruitcake was voted far and away the worst way to make a good impression.


Check Consumer Reports' 2015 Holiday Guide for our picks of the best gifts, details on the latest deals, time-saving tips, and much more. And see our countdown calendar for top gift ideas for everyone on your list.
 

Pain Points Bother Us More Than They Used To

The dread-o-meter is trending upward. The percentage of respondents who grimaced over a particular pain point has increased significantly compared to the results of a similar question we asked in 2012. Take aggressive or thoughtless driving in parking lots. Three years ago, 40 percent of respondents cited it as a behavior they dreaded during the holiday season. The response this time around: 55 percent.

Other pain points that bother us now more than they did in 2012: Crowds/long lines, gift shopping, seasonal music, visiting with certain relatives, traveling, having to attend parties and other social obligations. The only irritant that seems to bother us less now is weight gain. So go ahead, live a little and have that second glass of egg nog.

Tell us whether your holiday celebrations are more Norman Rockwell or more National Lampoon by adding a comment below.

*Editor's Note: Findings for this poll are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,007 adults ages 18 and older conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center in November 2015; 77 percent will be shopping this holiday season. Fifty-two percent of the sample was female; the median age was 45 years old.